For this Good Friday, we’re offering two for the price of one. On The Matinee ’18 March 30th – World Edition, we head off to five countries for six songs. There’s a wide range of singles for your listening pleasure.
Dirty Pixels – “On Ice” (Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Bright Eyes, Deerhunter, of Montreal
It has been seven years since indie-rock group Bright Eyes disbanded (or on indefinite hiatus). While the indie-rock great’s music wasn’t the most accessible, it was unquestionably inventive and fresh. They were a music connoisseur’s band. Maybe, just maybe the heir apparent has arrived, but although they don’t call Omaha, Nebraska home. They instead reside 10,000 miles on the other side of the globe. Auckland, New Zealand to be exact, and the band is Dirty Pixels.
The brainchild of Ethan Moore, Dirty Pixels released a split single earlier this week (available on Bandcamp), and one of the songs, “On Ice”, bellows of Bright Eyes. The crunchy guitars that open the song and then sway to a jangly tone are reminiscent of Mike Mogis’ genius, and the compressed synths that fill the air are reminiscent of Nate Walcott. The oft-kilter approach and unexpected mini-bridge and climax also channel the indie-rock great. Meanwhile, Moore’s vocals and his socially observant lyrics are Conor Oberst. He is literally a carbon copy of the singer-songwriter and producer genius.
Whether Dirty Pixels and replicate Bright Eyes’ success remains to be seen, but at the very least they should quickly become an Aotearoa favorite.
Fenne Lily – “Car Park” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Aldous Harding, Tiny Ruins, Phoebe Bridgers
For two years, Bristol artist Fenne Lily has wowed us time and time again. It all begins with one of the most sensational and memorable voices around, continues with a musical style that transcends the word “gorgeous”, and is bookend by her warm, graceful, and intimate songwriting. Lily personifies every trait will admire in a singer-songwriter, and she once again has us quaking in our boots with the devastatingly beautiful “Car Park”.
Musically, the song shares similarities with Tiny Ruins and Phoebe Bridgers – a soft, eloquent melody that borders between contemporary indie-folk and ’70s psych-folk. While the feathery touches of the percussion and the tight guitar riffs are stirring, Lily’s voice is the star – it’s always the star. In the past, she’s told us stories about losing someone (“Top To Toe”), losing a part of yourself (“Three Oh Nine”), and loneliness (“Hold On”). This time, she writes about heartbreak, but in a way we’re not accustomed to hearing. She’s hoping for the past nor regretting what has happened, but instead recognizing that everything comes to an end. When it does, one must move on. “Car Park”, as such, is about not being stationary. It’s about finding strength to once again face the world alone.
Somehow, some way, Lily remains unsigned, and she will independently release her debut album, On Hold, on April 6th. That date is also the start of her month-long European tour. Dates and information are available here.
The Ramona Flowers – “Dramatist” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Great Good Fine Ok, Handsome Ghost, Prides
The Ramona Flowers formed in 2012 and the band has been providing an awesome mix of rock+electronica. “Dramatist” is the newest track from the band and their most recent singles are alluding to their tweaked sound which so far is a bit heavier on the electronic side.
“Dramatist” is laid back and will definitely put you in a chill mood. The song speaks to a relationship that has definitely evolved since it began. The drum beats and 80s inspired synth are perfectly combined which perfectly frame singer Steve Bird’s vocals.
The Ramona Flowers are Steve Bird, Dave Betts, Ed Gallimore, Sam James and Wayne Jones. Their new album, Strangers, is out May 18th via Distiller Music.
Room Six Eleven – “Big Bad Wolf” (Athens, Greece)
RIYL: Sly and The Family Stone meets BADBADNOTGOOD and Amy Winehouse
We don’t know too much about Room Six Eleven as they formed less than a year ago. There are two things that we do know. First, they are a collective of nine musicians based in Athens, although some of the members come from Israel and the USA. The band was founded by Kyriakos Mourtzouchos, who is the composer, arranger, and producer and plays guitar, keys, and programming. He’s joined by vocalists Stevie, Kris Lee, and the Ghost. Instrumentation includes Mark Morgan (trumpet), Yoed Nir (cello and strings), and Sakis Bastas (bass). Aris Androutsos and John Kokkonouzis are co-songwriters. Sounds a lot like San Fermin, right?
Which leads us to point two. This outfit is quite talented just like the popular Brooklyn collective. They are, however, a bit funkier and more old-school in a psychedelic-disco way, at least that’s the indication “Big Bad Wolf” gives.
The track is beyond categorization and any labels. It is a multi-genre, multi-generation number that merges ’70s funk, ’90s soul-rock, and modern-day hip hop. Power vocals abound on this track, and the orchestration is off the charts. Organs, guitars, bass, horns, and drums combine to form a wonderful wave of sonic delirium. The lyrics, too, are catchy, and you’ll be humming “Big Bad Wolf” to yourself for days (and maybe singing this tune to the person who betrayed you or just creeps you out). Think Sly and The Family Stone backed by BADBADNOTGOOD with Amy Winehouse leading the way and you get a powerhouse band that everyone will soon hear. They need to get some social media, though, to get noticed even more.
The song is taken from the band’s self-titled, debut EP, which can be picked up on Bandcamp.
The San Sebastian – “Wildfire” (Adelaide & Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Silver Jews, Phosphorescent, Alberta Cross
Adelaide’s and Melbourne’s music scenes are more known for jangle-rock and electronica and being the home of some of indie’s best singer-songwriters (see Courtney Barnett and Alex Lahey for instance). These two cities aren’t places one would expect to hear an alt-country band that reminds us of Silver Jews, Phosphorescent, and Alberta Cross. Yet here are The San Sebastian, which is the project of brothers Dan and Joel Crannitch and who deliver one of the best alt-country songs we’ve heard in a long time.
“Wildfire” is superb. It avoids the usual tricks that many, other alt-country songs use, and they instead turn to the cinematic to give new life to the genre. The guitar riffs and rhythms are familiar, but the addition of the strengths send the song to soaring heights where we are left gasping for a breath yet transfixed by the beauty before us. Dan’s vocals are stunning, and his lyrics are rich and imaginative yet he has shares a warning. Specifically, that our actions and words in this day and age can “set it alight like wildfire”. It’s a wonderful piece of songwriting with a sensational and captivating sound. “Wildfire”, in other words, is a masterpiece of art.
The single is out on Spunk Records. Debut album expected later this year.
Spielbergs – “Distant Star” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Superchunk, Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, The Men
It was only a week ago when we shared Norwegian rockers Spielbergs‘ single, “We Are All Going To Die”. Granted, that was our fault since we were late in sharing it. We’re not making that mistake again, especially when they share a rip-roaring, raucous tune like “Distant Star”.
The best way to describe the song is that it could be taken right from Superchunk’s deep canons. Yes, this is ’90s punk-infused, angst-rock at its finest. For 193 seconds, the trio of Mads Baklien (guitar/vocals/synth), Stian Brennskag (bass), and Christian Løvhaug (drums) deliver one flaming riff, one hammering bass line, and one pummeling drum roll after another. And it is awesome. You’ll want to lose your shit and ride the exhilaration. Do all of this with your best mate or your partner because then the two of you can shout out with the band, “Then we can be perfect. You could make me better. We could be soulmates and find a place to live!” Speaking of soulmates, we may have found our garage-rock ones in Spielbergs because we most definitely feel better hearing their songs.
Their new EP, Distant Star, is out April 27th via By The Time It Gets Dark. It could be one of the best EPs of the year – or at least one emphatic statement by a band to watch.
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